Prince Amukamara is getting action in more places than on the football field, and one of his teammates is making sure everybody knows it.
The 2011 draft pick and New York Giants cornerback had not initially performed up to his first-round draft choice billing due to injuries and poor performance. But he’s improved this past season, and teammate Antrel Rolle has a theory as to why.
“Being able to [have sex],” Rolle said in October. “He walks around with a little more swagger … it’s helping him out.”
Amukamara is a devout Christian who was abstaining from sex until marriage. He and his wife Pilar Davis married in March 2014, several months before the 2014 NFL season began. As Rolle pointed out, the turning point in Amukamara’s career appears to be when the young defensive back finally consummated his marriage.
Indirectly, Rolle may have a point, according to sports psychologist Dr. George Pappas.
“If [sex] is happening, things are going smoothly, so there’s less stress,” Pappas said. “If they have a bad relationship with their wife, their mind is not focused on the game.”
“It’s a part of their mental preparation,” he added.
Amukamara recorded 45 tackles and a career-high three interceptions in 2014. The fourth-year pro has taken it all in stride, as he walked off the practice field shortly after Rolle’s comments and said to the media present, “yeah, yeah, I’m getting laid. I’m getting laid.”
He also reportedly was working out to the Marvin Gaye song “Sexual Healing” that same day in the Giants’ weight room.
One study, conducted in 1995, had different groups of 11 men run on treadmills. The men were tested twice, once having had sex 12 hours before running and once without having sex, and the results showed no difference — though the study was criticized for having a small sample size.
Pappas said that the effect, however, might be more mental than physical.
“Elite athletes can probably separate their home life from work, but the majority of athletes are unable to do that,” he said. “If they have discord in their life, they have a tendency of bringing that to the game.”
“He can jump offsides, he’s more likely to have a shorter fuse, he’s more irritated,” Pappas said. “It’s a part of their mental preparation.”
While Amukamara’s coach, Tom Coughlin, was indifferent about his player’s sex life, some coaches take the act’s impact on their players’ performances more seriously.
In the 2014 World Cup in July, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s head coach Safet Sušić simply said that “there will be no sex in [World Cup host country] Brazil.”
“This is not a holiday trip,” Sušić added. “We are there to play football at the World Cup.”
Incidentally, Bosnia-Herzegovina won only one of its three games, lost the other two, and did not make it out of the group stage.
Other teams, such as Russia, Chile and Mexico, also completely banned sex during the tournament.
The Nigerian national team worried more about distractions than physical effects, in case players spent time trying to hook up rather than catching up on sleep. During the World Cup, the team only allowed its players to have sex with their wives so as to avoid distractions (for what it’s worth, the team went 1-1-1 in the group stage, advancing to the knockout stage before losing to France).
Individual athletes in other sports took similar caution as well. Boxer Muhammad Ali reportedly would not have sex for six weeks before a fight, despite insubstantial evidence to prove that it would have an adverse physical effect.
Pappas, who runs the Hartwood Wellness Center and graduated from Pitt with a psychology degree in 1985, said he uses a number of different methods to keep his athlete clients focused on competition.
“I want them to have positive thinking,” he said. “I want to get rid of unnecessary tension. Marital discord creates tension. If you’re tense, you’re not thinking properly, and you’re in a negative emotional state.”
So does Amukamara’s increased sex life directly improve his on-field performance, as Rolle suggests? Or it is simply a side effect of his seemingly blossoming marriage?
Amukamara probably would not mind either way.